Lord of Raventree Hall

Golden Stags and Silver Wolves

37 posts in this topic

So, my topic is pretty straight forward, and probably someone has asked it before. However, as I reread AGoT for the fourth time, I wondered why King Robert Baratheon did not mint his own coins, Firstly, from in book sources it seems like each previous King had his face on some coins. Secondly, Robert hates the Targaryens. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it would be realistic or feasable to replace all the coins, but he could have started minting his own coins, or perhaps even reminted some coins he had a hold of. Instead of golden dragons and silver stags, he could have minted golden stags and silver wolves (or silver falcons). For that matter, even if Robert was too lazy or Jon Arryn thought it was a waste of time, what about when Tywin Lannister became the Hand of the King? Coinage has the power to reinforce the current power bloc. By keeping golden dragons, you silently approve the Targaryens as the true top house in your cuture. I would have thought Tywin would have minted golden stags and silver lions (or he would somehow switch this without admitting Joffrey's true parentage). Anyways, I just wondered what people thought. Why didn't Robert, Jon Arryn, or Tywin ever even consider this? 

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There seems to be a lack of economic realism in the books - presumably grrm was not concerned with such..

 

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Good question! I'm guessing Robert never thought about it and his trusted advisors didn't either. Bobbie B wasn't much for ruling, although he enjoyed the perqs of having apparently unlimited gold for his own personal pleasures and didn't recognize the political statement of what was stamped on it.

If he or his advisors had thought about changing "gold dragons" to "gold stags", they might have also worried about the disruption it might cause. Is a "gold stag" worth one "gold dragon" or something else? What's the relationship between a "gold stag" and the old "silver stag"? As for the new silver, why would he go with "wolves"? The Starks weren't represented in King's Landing in any way. Silver falcons is also pretty tentative. It would have to be silver lions for his wife - but Lord Tywin would clearly not tolerate anything but gold, if it had his sigil stamped on it. So that's a non-starter. The whole exercise would seem to be a lot of work and expense, and for what?

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7 hours ago, Lord of Raventree Hall said:

So, my topic is pretty straight forward, and probably someone has asked it before. However, as I reread AGoT for the fourth time, I wondered why King Robert Baratheon did not mint his own coins, Firstly, from in book sources it seems like each previous King had his face on some coins. Secondly, Robert hates the Targaryens. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it would be realistic or feasable to replace all the coins, but he could have started minting his own coins, or perhaps even reminted some coins he had a hold of. Instead of golden dragons and silver stags, he could have minted golden stags and silver wolves (or silver falcons). For that matter, even if Robert was too lazy or Jon Arryn thought it was a waste of time, what about when Tywin Lannister became the Hand of the King? Coinage has the power to reinforce the current power bloc. By keeping golden dragons, you silently approve the Targaryens as the true top house in your cuture. I would have thought Tywin would have minted golden stags and silver lions (or he would somehow switch this without admitting Joffrey's true parentage). Anyways, I just wondered what people thought. Why didn't Robert, Jon Arryn, or Tywin ever even consider this? 

This is a good question. I don't have a definite answer, but this is my guess at it. As you say, "coinage has the power to reinforce the current power bloc" so it would make sense for new coinage to be printed...

I think that we can say this was done intentionally. Yes it is true that Robert's Warhammer won the iron throne....however, keep in mind that the justification for Robert sitting the throne after the fact comes not from him winning the rebellion, but from his Targaryen blood through his paternal grandmother Rhaella Targaryen and thus Robert is descendant from Aegon V.

If instead of dying/being exiled due to rebellion, Arys, Dany, Rhaegar and family, Viserys etc all died in an automobile accident, it looks like Robert would have been next in line of succession.

Robert has not really over thrown the Targaryen rule so much as he deposed the crowned family and is now the next King in the Targaryen line. It is important, at least some might argue, for Robert to play up his Targaryen blood and be seen as a legitimate claimant to the throne rather and the coinage helps to reinforce this

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Wild Bill said it - "GRRM did not think of it".

Edited by TMIFairy

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7 hours ago, Lord of Raventree Hall said:

So, my topic is pretty straight forward, and probably someone has asked it before. However, as I reread AGoT for the fourth time, I wondered why King Robert Baratheon did not mint his own coins, Firstly, from in book sources it seems like each previous King had his face on some coins. Secondly, Robert hates the Targaryens. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it would be realistic or feasable to replace all the coins, but he could have started minting his own coins, or perhaps even reminted some coins he had a hold of. Instead of golden dragons and silver stags, he could have minted golden stags and silver wolves (or silver falcons). For that matter, even if Robert was too lazy or Jon Arryn thought it was a waste of time, what about when Tywin Lannister became the Hand of the King? Coinage has the power to reinforce the current power bloc. By keeping golden dragons, you silently approve the Targaryens as the true top house in your cuture. I would have thought Tywin would have minted golden stags and silver lions (or he would somehow switch this without admitting Joffrey's true parentage). Anyways, I just wondered what people thought. Why didn't Robert, Jon Arryn, or Tywin ever even consider this? 

He wouldn't want to.

The Baratheon tie to House Targaryen and the Blood of the Dragon being in him is how he is legitimately able to claim the throne

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I agree with zandru and YOVMO, that Robert wanted to avoid disrupting the established norms for economic units and also that he emphasized his connection to the Targaryens by keeping the top coin as a gold dragon. For all we know, he may have had his face stamped on one side of any new gold dragons, while the obverse side retained the dragon symbol. Remember, he moved the dragon skulls out of the Red Keep's great hall and into the basement, but he didn't destroy them or lose them all together.

Recall also, that Littlefinger is the master of coin. He may have come up with some persuasive reasoning for Jon Arryn and/or King Robert about keeping the coins the way they are.

A third reason may have been that, because the Iron Throne was bankrupt and borrowing money, there may not have been a lot of gold available to make new coins. They could have melted down and re-embossed the old ones, but that would get into the smith symbolism and maybe GRRM didn't want that association for some reason.

I disagree that the author didn't think of it or wasn't concerned with it. Coins are important symbols, related to Littlefinger, as I mentioned, but also to severed heads and the Penny and Groat subplot. If a coin bearing Robert's image didn't fit with this motif, GRRM would have left it out on purpose, not by mistake.

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5 hours ago, TMIFairy said:

Wild Bill said it - "GRRM did not think of it".

I'm convinced this is not the case. George specifically designed his world as the setting of the ASOIAF setting, and he was obviously aware of the fact that the golden coin had the sigil of the old dynasty.

He just decided that in his setting it made more sense this way. And there are arguments to justify this position. I'm not an expert on the matter, but I can imagine some:

  • The dragons are golden coins, only owned by nobles and the richest merchants. The silver stags could easily be much more widely used, and thus, more effective in terms of propaganda. Specially among the lower classes.
  • In medieval times, the coins were not re-minted every time a monarch died. Only the new coins would get the new monarch's face. And in Robert's times, just after the war, the winners just didn't have enough wealth or gold to mint a significant enough volume of "golden stags" to make a difference.
  • The term "golden dragon" could have become a prestigious brand in foreign lands. If the dragons had a reputation of having a high purity of gold, it would be ill advised to change their name and appearance (specially if their purity was lessened after the war, as it happened in most real world kingdoms)

Its also notable that the golden coin that it's probably the closer real world equivalent to the golden dragon also had his name borrowed by many other kingdoms: the florins (issued by the city of Florence) became so prestigious that many other states issued their own florins without changing their name. Thus, we have French florins, English florins, Hungarian florin, Catalan florins,...

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11 hours ago, Seams said:

...

I disagree that the author didn't think of it or wasn't concerned with it. Coins are important symbols, related to Littlefinger, as I mentioned, but also to severed heads and the Penny and Groat subplot. If a coin bearing Robert's image didn't fit with this motif, GRRM would have left it out on purpose, not by mistake.

Coins are, indeed, very important symbols, as well as having economic value (including the debasing of coins from a bit of your post I cut out). The power to mint was very real and strong.

You assert that the author thought of it and was concerned about it, but did not write a single word about it? But instead left it out on purpose, precisely because it was important...

I'll use my only interesting coin - a silver denarius minted by Roman Emperor Vespasian (CE 69-79) to illustrate the importance of coinage throughout history. Every Emperor minted a number of different coins during their reign, starting with Ceasar. There was a propaganda aspect to this (coins show the head of the ruler on one side and some great victory context on the other side) and existing coins of the prior regime would be "recalled" to be melted and reminted. And, of course, if there were financial problems (always!), subsequent coining would be debased (less silver or gold than prior). Ditto, the feudal period that is grrm's primary backdrop.

If grrm spent anytime writing this into the story, he would first have eliminated "Dragon" since that is from the old regime. Then there would have been distinctions (in financial transactions) between coins from this Targ or that Targ (due to debasing), or this particular coin from Robert, or that coin from Robert. Considering the Baratheron's problems, it is easy to imagine that significant debasing of the currency was occurring, and if it were a subject that grrm talked about it would be of LF's genius at "finding" a way to make a coin go farther, or of Tyrion, once Master of Coin, finding out how debased the currency really is.

I think OP was right on track in questioning a lack of "coinage stuff". And, I'll hold to my original post that grrm didn't care about economics. Though, since I am writing this, grrm did miss out on either some further depth, or further symbolism - imagine Joffery, first of his name, minting a coin showing his noble face on one side, and the other side showing [censored].

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7 hours ago, The hairy bear said:

I'm convinced this is not the case. George specifically designed his world as the setting of the ASOIAF setting, and he was obviously aware of the fact that the golden coin had the sigil of the old dynasty.

He just decided that in his setting it made more sense this way. And there are arguments to justify this position. I'm not an expert on the matter, but I can imagine some:

  • The dragons are golden coins, only owned by nobles and the richest merchants. The silver stags could easily be much more widely used, and thus, more effective in terms of propaganda. Specially among the lower classes.
  • In medieval times, the coins were not re-minted every time a monarch died. Only the new coins would get the new monarch's face. And in Robert's times, just after the war, the winners just didn't have enough wealth or gold to mint a significant enough volume of "golden stags" to make a difference.
  • The term "golden dragon" could have become a prestigious brand in foreign lands. If the dragons had a reputation of having a high purity of gold, it would be ill advised to change their name and appearance (specially if their purity was lessened after the war, as it happened in most real world kingdoms)

Its also notable that the golden coin that it's probably the closer real world equivalent to the golden dragon also had his name borrowed by many other kingdoms: the florins (issued by the city of Florence) became so prestigious that many other states issued their own florins without changing their name. Thus, we have French florins, English florins, Hungarian florin, Catalan florins,...

I think the bolded bits are a variation on my theme. He didn't want to go into details, or didn't think of it in the first place, so he just had a simplified coinage. The un-bolded bits are just more evidence that grrm wasn't concerned about it - or felt that detail would be overkill, or whatever.

So... I guess I agree completely, other than I think it very possible that he didn't think of it all, or at least in detail, as opposed to the assertion that he thought it through very carefully, and then never wrote a single word in the books about it...

Edit: I'm not arguing with your post, btw. :)

Edited by Wild Bill

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What level of economic and exchange rate detail are you expecting, anyway, when y'all assert that George RR never bothered to think about it?

I asked him a few years back what the exchange rate was between a gold dragon and a silver stag, also coppers. He noted that it wasn't a fixed thing, and in any event wouldn't be a simple number, like we're used to in these modern times. More like the Harry Potter wizarding coinage, but even worse. So the stories do not go into detail; there would be too much detail - and it would be irrelevant.

Well, that's my opinion  ;-)   Some of the other discussions involving "debasing" an established currency, maintaining a widely known brand, reasserting the Baratheon claim to the Dragon's Throne, the silver stag, etc have been great. Simple.minded as I am, I really prefer this kind of topic to long dissertations on the significance of the color brown in the series..

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You can't expect george to write a book this complicated, and then have every economic aspect on point.

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11 hours ago, Wild Bill said:

Coins are, indeed, very important symbols, as well as having economic value (including the debasing of coins from a bit of your post I cut out). The power to mint was very real and strong.

You assert that the author thought of it and was concerned about it, but did not write a single word about it? But instead left it out on purpose, precisely because it was important...

I'll use my only interesting coin - a silver denarius minted by Roman Emperor Vespasian (CE 69-79) to illustrate the importance of coinage throughout history. Every Emperor minted a number of different coins during their reign, starting with Ceasar. There was a propaganda aspect to this (coins show the head of the ruler on one side and some great victory context on the other side) and existing coins of the prior regime would be "recalled" to be melted and reminted. And, of course, if there were financial problems (always!), subsequent coining would be debased (less silver or gold than prior). Ditto, the feudal period that is grrm's primary backdrop.

If grrm spent anytime writing this into the story, he would first have eliminated "Dragon" since that is from the old regime. Then there would have been distinctions (in financial transactions) between coins from this Targ or that Targ (due to debasing), or this particular coin from Robert, or that coin from Robert. Considering the Baratheron's problems, it is easy to imagine that significant debasing of the currency was occurring, and if it were a subject that grrm talked about it would be of LF's genius at "finding" a way to make a coin go farther, or of Tyrion, once Master of Coin, finding out how debased the currency really is.

I think OP was right on track in questioning a lack of "coinage stuff". And, I'll hold to my original post that grrm didn't care about economics. Though, since I am writing this, grrm did miss out on either some further depth, or further symbolism - imagine Joffery, first of his name, minting a coin showing his noble face on one side, and the other side showing [censored].

I'm sorry you are confused about my points. Let me try to clarify.

Coins are, indeed, very important symbols. I assert that the author thought of them and wrote about them. YOU assert that he did not write a single word about them. Your points are related to the history of coins; my points are related to the set of novels written by GRRM and the contents of those novels.

I think the confusion occurred because, I acknowledge, GRRM did not include in the books the striking or reminting of coins with the image of Robert Baratheon. In the real world, this would be an odd omission. In the novels, the failure to remake the currency of Westeros was a deliberate decision on the part of the author because he uses coins extensively in connection with characters other than King Robert; his goal was never to include a historic lesson on Roman or Medieval coins, but to use coins in a symbolic way to build a motif around the Master of Coin, Littlefinger, and the Bank of Braavos / House of Black and White.

I don't want to put you to the trouble of having to cut a bit of my posts, so I will just say that the coins seem to be hints about Littlefinger's behind-the-scenes plotting against the highborn and major houses of Westeros. The link between the bank and the Faceless Men is that coins usually bear the profile (head or face) of the ruler and they can be stored in a vault, similar to methods the FM use to store and reuse faces of people they have killed for profit. Obviously, Arya's entree into the House of Black and White was the iron coin given to her by Jaqen. I suspect we will know more about the meaning of coins in the last two books when we see Penny again and return to the Gates of the Moon.

Luckily, we can both be right to some extent. As you assert, GRRM did not write about the history that you outline or about economics in a way that interests you. He did write about coins in meaningful literary ways, however, as shown in those two links. He did not, however, miss out on depth or symbolism.

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12 hours ago, Seams said:

I'm sorry you are confused about my points. Let me try to clarify.

Coins are, indeed, very important symbols. I assert that the author thought of them and wrote about them. YOU assert that he did not write a single word about them. Your points are related to the history of coins; my points are related to the set of novels written by GRRM and the contents of those novels.

I think the confusion occurred because, I acknowledge, GRRM did not include in the books the striking or reminting of coins with the image of Robert Baratheon. In the real world, this would be an odd omission. In the novels, the failure to remake the currency of Westeros was a deliberate decision on the part of the author because he uses coins extensively in connection with characters other than King Robert; his goal was never to include a historic lesson on Roman or Medieval coins, but to use coins in a symbolic way to build a motif around the Master of Coin, Littlefinger, and the Bank of Braavos / House of Black and White.

I don't want to put you to the trouble of having to cut a bit of my posts, so I will just say that the coins seem to be hints about Littlefinger's behind-the-scenes plotting against the highborn and major houses of Westeros. The link between the bank and the Faceless Men is that coins usually bear the profile (head or face) of the ruler and they can be stored in a vault, similar to methods the FM use to store and reuse faces of people they have killed for profit. Obviously, Arya's entree into the House of Black and White was the iron coin given to her by Jaqen. I suspect we will know more about the meaning of coins in the last two books when we see Penny again and return to the Gates of the Moon.

Luckily, we can both be right to some extent. As you assert, GRRM did not write about the history that you outline or about economics in a way that interests you. He did write about coins in meaningful literary ways, however, as shown in those two links. He did not, however, miss out on depth or symbolism.

Hmm...

I agree completely with your last paragraph (I guess?). And definitely with your penultimate paragraph, though I don't think we know where the Faceless Men's money go.

I do, respectfully, disagree with you about your interpretation of grrm's treatment of economics, or at least of coinage. And, also, that I am focused on economics above all else. I contended that grrm never mentioned anything. You have countered with grrm never mentioned anything, but... somehow, something... I suspect, as you have posted, that we are akin on this. That is my interpretation. :)

Cheers,

[btw, I am in the long-time habit of cutting off non-relevant bits of a quoted post. Apologies, if I've implied the other bits were not significant - they were not relevant to the post I was making.]

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13 hours ago, Seams said:

I'm sorry you are confused about my points. Let me try to clarify.

Coins are, indeed, very important symbols. I assert that the author thought of them and wrote about them. YOU assert that he did not write a single word about them. Your points are related to the history of coins; my points are related to the set of novels written by GRRM and the contents of those novels.

I think the confusion occurred because, I acknowledge, GRRM did not include in the books the striking or reminting of coins with the image of Robert Baratheon. In the real world, this would be an odd omission. In the novels, the failure to remake the currency of Westeros was a deliberate decision on the part of the author because he uses coins extensively in connection with characters other than King Robert; his goal was never to include a historic lesson on Roman or Medieval coins, but to use coins in a symbolic way to build a motif around the Master of Coin, Littlefinger, and the Bank of Braavos / House of Black and White.

I don't want to put you to the trouble of having to cut a bit of my posts, so I will just say that the coins seem to be hints about Littlefinger's behind-the-scenes plotting against the highborn and major houses of Westeros. The link between the bank and the Faceless Men is that coins usually bear the profile (head or face) of the ruler and they can be stored in a vault, similar to methods the FM use to store and reuse faces of people they have killed for profit. Obviously, Arya's entree into the House of Black and White was the iron coin given to her by Jaqen. I suspect we will know more about the meaning of coins in the last two books when we see Penny again and return to the Gates of the Moon.

Luckily, we can both be right to some extent. As you assert, GRRM did not write about the history that you outline or about economics in a way that interests you. He did write about coins in meaningful literary ways, however, as shown in those two links. He did not, however, miss out on depth or symbolism.

Um:

“King Robert.” She put a silver stag on the barrel between them. Robert’s head was on one side, the stag on the other.
 

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8 minutes ago, Universal Sword Donor said:

Um:

“King Robert.” She put a silver stag on the barrel between them. Robert’s head was on one side, the stag on the other.
 

Nice... :)

But, whither Dragons?

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The timing of the first book coincides with roberts rule while the targs were gone for almost 2 decades,GRRM could have scrapped the golden dragon altogether and used golden stags and others ..

i think he used golden dragons on purpose to remind the reader of the targs and their rule..

 

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Perhaps...

But grrm's seeming indifference to economics makes me think that he didn't think of it all.

Not that it matters... ;)

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I actually wondered, when I first read the books, why the silver coins were stags, tbh. And when was the coinage impelemented? Aegon I? Jaehaerys I? The golden dragons make sense, was the Hand of the King at the time a Baratheon?

I imagine redoing the coinage would have put a lot of people offside. And Robert was trying to prove continuity with the Targs

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